40 Years Young

40 Years Young

***I just came out of the Alaska backcountry, celebrating my birthday with Justin and some grizzly bears in Katmai National Park. I cannot wait to tell you about that trip and show you pictures, because it truly was the trip of a lifetime. But right now, I wanted to share some thoughts as I turned 40 this week. (And thank you all for the birthday wishes!)***

40 feels like freedom.

Getting older never bothered me. Maybe it’s because I look younger than I am and I’ve spent most of my life justifying my age.

When I was a teenager, I could hardly get into PG-13 movies let along R-rates movies.

When I was in my 20s, I could hardly get into R-rated movies without being carded let alone get a drink at the bar.

When I was 30, more than 1 person asked me if I just graduated high school.

It feels somewhat of an accomplishment to confidently say, “I am 40.”

Maybe people are still thinking, no way she’s 40, but I feel very much 40.

In the grand scheme of living, 40 doesn’t seem like a lot of living. They call it a midpoint or middle age, but that makes me cringe. What I do know is I am much wiser than I was in my 20s and 30s.

The emotional drama of growing up is behind you.

I am liberated by the “coulda shoulda woulda” and have no regrets on my decisions.

I push through the fear of failure more.

I also think of the kind of backpacker I was when I was in my 20s. I recently wrote a post for Princeton Tec’s blog revisiting my first ever backpacking trip at age 22, the one where I got lost and had to be rescued. It’s uncomfortable to admit how ignorant and inexperienced I was, but it is the truth! We all start somewhere.

My first backpacking trip in 2001.

It feels somewhat of an accomplishment to confidently say, “I am 40.”

And yet. And yet. I still have a lot of growing to do. I am still a sensitive one. A defensive one.

People, especially my sister, tell me with 40 comes with an indifference to what others think. I cannot wait for that switch. Because while I have learned not to sweat the small stuff and to take things with a grain of salt, my peaceful complacency still takes work.

I have always said my favorite age was 24. I wasn’t naive; I knew there was heartache and suffering in the world. I worked for a nonprofit with homeless and low-income people, and even taught life skills in a jail as part of that role. A 24-year-old chick standing in front of a bunch of incarcerated men telling them about life skills seems like a bit of a joke, but it worked.

Me at age 19, ready to tackle the world

I also think my GenX cynicism kept me warm and cozy. Full of ideas and energy and potential with age-appropriate responsibilities that told me I was an adult. I can remember calling my father shortly after getting my first credit card (I was a late bloomer on that front in life, as my parents kept strict spending limits on my personal bank account, then let me rule my finances starting at 22). Anyway, I paid the minimum payment on my credit card one month only to find a finance charge the next month.

“What is a finance charge, Dad??” I asked in horror.

“Well honey, that’s how they make money off you.”

I vowed never to carry a balance on my credit card again.

I am skipping over the middle part of life it seems–ladder-climbing career, status building, amassing wealth, raising children. I drifted away from a traditional career path at age 31. I mean, I have become the exact type of writer I wanted to be, but the self-employment route has allowed me (us) to live more intentionally with more freedom and flexibility to spend time outside. It is non-traditional, and I love it. Plus, a good friend just introduced me to this idea and I love it. “Life is too short to have one career or one way to explore your true self.”

Anyway, even though it wasn’t too long ago, I have no desire to be in my 20s any more (Snapchat would eat me alive).

I am ready for my 40s.

6 responses to “40 Years Young”

  1. Misti says:

    Happy Birthday Patrice! I’m not sure I’m looking forward to 40 quite yet, just a little under two years away now, but I can see that it is a much different way of life once you get on top of that mountain.

    Can’t wait to hear about your trip to Denali!

  2. Mom/mil says:

    Everett and I just read your post about turning 40. E says happy birthday. He misses you and can’t wait to see you. Also, we are glued to explore.org. Watching the bears real time is addictive. HBD all month!

  3. Janet Caldwell says:

    Happy Birthday Patrice! I have always felt that age was just a number. Your 40’s however, are an incredible time to grow! With all or most of the people drama behind you by this time you know who your friends are. You still have incredible memories waiting to be made. You are a beautiful person. I will always keep a lookout for the kitty. Last sighting was about two weeks ago coming home from a call at about 2:00 in the morning.

  4. Patricia Stevens says:

    Well said Sweetie! You have so much more ahead of you. God Bless and Happy Birthday!

  5. Mary says:

    Well, I didn’t find that turning 40 made me care less about anything! I was still the same person. I’m older than 40 and I think the only difference is that every year I can still do what I love makes me appreciate everything so much more. I wish people didn’t put such an emphasis on women looking young though. It’s hard when I see myself in the mirror! Happy Birthday and it’s good you are living the life you want. (Are people amassing wealth? I missed that part I guess)

  6. Jamie La Vigne says:

    You wear your age well. Thanks for making 40 look easy!

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